Colts' young, fast, underrated defense to face ultimate test vs. Chiefs

Colts cornerback Kenny Moore, who intercepted Houston's Deshaun Watson during Indianapolis' win on Saturday, is one of the unsung playmakers on a young defense that was the NFL's stingiest from Week 7 forward this season. AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

INDIANAPOLIS -- It's the NFL's highest-scoring offense vs. the NFL's stingiest scoring defense from Week 7 onward.

Head coach and playcaller Andy Reid and his diverse offense vs. a defense that doesn't know anything but to have all 11 players pursue the football until the whistle is blown.

It's the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense (Kansas City) vs. one of the NFL's most underrated defenses (Indianapolis) in an AFC divisional playoff matchup on Saturday (4:35 p.m. ET, NBC).

"Kansas City, there's a reason why they're the No. 1 seed," Colts coach Frank Reich said. "Andy Reid is one of the best in the business. Have the most respect you can have for a guy. He's a great coach. They're very well-coached. Going to be a great challenge."

The only top-10 offense the Colts faced during the regular season was New England's in Week 5, when they were still trying to find their identity. What's more, the Patriots' offense, which is led by Tom Brady, is nothing compared to what the Colts will be dealing with Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.

A look at the Chiefs' offense:

  • No. 1 in total yards

  • No. 1 in scoring

  • No. 1 in yards per play

  • No. 1 in net passing yards per play

  • No. 3 in passing yards

  • Five games of at least 40 points

Like Reich, Reid is an offensive guru who keeps defenses guessing with an assortment of formations and aggressive calls.

The player leading Kansas City's offense is quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the favorite to win the MVP award this season. Mahomes, who is in his first season as a starter, threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns, second-most in NFL history behind the mark of some player named Peyton Manning (55).

"They do a great job of being very multiple and very diverse," Reich said. "They keep [defenses] guessing. I think Coach Reid, that's been his M.O. for a long time. He's very good at being creative and using the weapons that he has. They do have great weapons, and he knows how to use them and spread the ball around. Then having a quarterback like that who is a playmaker, he's had a tremendous year."

But this isn't the same Colts defensive unit of years past under former coach Chuck Pagano. They're fine with not having a bunch of headliners on their unit. That's because they still finished 11th overall, forced a turnover in 15 of 16 games in the regular season, didn't give up 100 yards rushing to any player and had the NFL's leading tackler in rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. The 16.4 points allowed per game from Week 7 onward were the fewest in the league. Week 7 is also the point when the Colts began their current streak of winning 10 of their past 11 games.

The Colts' success on the defensive side of the ball has made defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus a popular head-coaching candidate.

The Colts blanked Houston in the first half of their wild-card matchup on Saturday -- the first time that has happened in the playoffs since Jan. 8, 2011 -- and it took the Texans 16 plays to go 89 yards on their lone touchdown in the fourth quarter, when they were trailing 21-0.

Several Colts defenders said after the game that they never want to give up points, but if they're going to give up some, they want to make sure the offense has to go the length of the field to get there because it uses up a lot of clock when the Colts are leading.

Of the Houston win, Colts linebacker Anthony Walker said, "Hopefully, we can build from it, learn from it and keep this thing going."

"There's no doubt the defense is a huge part of the reason that we are where we're at," Reich said. "The reason, I think, is because, No. 1, we have good players. You can have a great scheme, but if you don't have good players, it doesn't matter. So, No. 1, just give credit to the fact that we have talented players. [General manager] Chris [Ballard] has done a good job of putting the players on our defense. Maybe you hear people say, 'Well, we don't have a bunch of Pro Bowl defensive players [or] big-name players.' I don't know about all that. All I know is we have good players, and then we do have a good scheme.

"Matt has done a phenomenal job and the defensive staff. It just takes time. It takes time to develop the culture and the mentality and the execution that you want for things to grow to where you play winning football. I think that is more than anything what it was."